Last night, I went shopping on Amazon for a new stool.
At $48.90, this one came recommended as excellent value for money. And I almost bought it.
But then the stool snob in me made me want to splash some of that blogging cash, $6,837.02, to be precise. And Voilà! Then again, I don’t want the credit card company judging me for charging less than $10K on my black card for something on which to rest my butt. So, I passed.
Come on, eBay, whatcha got? $24,995 for a set of two. Oh yeah! This is promising.
Alas, I never pulled the trigger.
Here’s the thing. I could’ve bought the stools, all of them, and still spent less than the $42,000 an employer just paid to settle an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit in which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that an employer refused to accommodate an injured desk clerk with a simple stool. Probably one like this.
According to the EEOC’s press release, the federal anti-discrimination watchdog alleged that the employee submitted medical support for and requested the use of a chair or stool to accommodate the employee’s disability, which made standing for prolonged periods difficult. However, the employer denied the request based on its policy that desk clerks must always stand. Instead, the employer offered insufficient and undesirable alternative accommodations: (1) the employee could apply for another position for which the employee believed he was not qualified, or (2) the employee could have worked another desk job on the graveyard shift.
The employee attempted to continue to work without the accommodation but was forced to resign in light of a continuing deterioration of the employee’s physical health.
Apparently, the employer clung to its inflexible policy against sitting at work. But, unless standing is an essential function of the job, a workplace policy against sitting does not supersede the ADA, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate the known disabilities of employees who ask for help to perform their jobs.
Here’s another tip, courtesy of the EEOC:
“When receiving a request for accommodation, employers should first assess whether the request is reasonable and can be accomplished without disrupting business operations, as opposed to whether a request is contrary to a rigid universal application of a company policy. This approach may better inform decision makers so that they may engage in a good-faith interactive process with the employee and do not run afoul of the ADA.”
Perhaps it will save your business tens of thousands of dollars, a small fraction of which you can spend to reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability who needs help.